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What does history say about the Chiefs or 49ers making it back to the Super Bowl?

With 32 teams and a talent-leveling salary cap, it’s incredibly difficult to repeat as Super Bowl champion. Since 1990, only three teams — the 1992-92 Cowboys, the 1997-98 Broncos, and the 2003-04 Patriots — have been able to defend their grasp on the Vince Lombardi Trophy.

That sets a lofty precedent for Chiefs quarterback and reigning Super Bowl MVP Patrick Mahomes to follow. The last three starting QBs to attend back-to-back championship parades have been three absolute stars (Troy Aikman, John Elway, and Tom Brady).

That leaves a clear goal for Kansas City in 2020: elevate its quarterback from great to legendary. Mahomes is already the youngest player in league history to have won both a regular season and Super Bowl MVP. The only fitting encore may be to do both in the same season. Only Bart Starr, Terry Bradshaw, Joe Montana, Emmitt Smith, Steve Young, and Kurt Warner — all of them Hall of Famers — have been able to pull that off.

To do so, he’ll have to buck recent trends. In the last decade, only two teams have made a return appearance the season after winning the Super Bowl. Neither could get over that hump to reel in a second straight championship.

Super Bowl winners, 2009-18

Year Super Bowl winner Next year record Postseason result
Year Super Bowl winner Next year record Postseason result
2018 New England Patriots 12-4 Lost Wild Card
2017 Philadelphia Eagles 9-7 Lost Divisional Round
2016 New England Patriots 13-3 Lost Super Bowl
2015 Denver Broncos 9-7 Missed playoffs
2014 New England Patriots 12-4 Lost Conference Championship
2013 Seattle Seahawks 12-4 Lost Super Bowl
2012 Baltimore Ravens 8-8 Missed playoffs
2011 New York Giants 9-7 Missed playoffs
2010 Green Bay Packers 15-1 Lost Divisional Round
2009 New Orleans Saints 11-5 Lost Wild Card

The Chiefs will be looking to avoid the Super Bowl hangover that ended the Broncos’, Ravens’, and Giants’ title defenses before the playoffs even began. Their stable quarterback situation should give them an excellent head start on the road to a title defense.

That Super Bowl 54 loss is bad news for the 49ers

In the 54 years of the Super Bowl, only three teams have gone from losing on the game’s biggest stage to winning one season later. New England was able to do it just over a year ago, but you’d have to go back to the early 1970s to find the other two teams to accomplish that feat:

  • 1970-71 Cowboys, Super Bowls V and VI
  • 1971-72 Dolphins, Super Bowls VI and VII
  • 2017-18 Patriots, Super Bowls 52 and 53

The Cowboys fell to the Colts in Super Bowl V, and a year later, Roger Staubach led Dallas to a win over the Dolphins. Those Dolphins then won Super Bowl VII against Washington in January 1973. New England made it to three straight Super Bowls after the 2016-18 seasons (and four in a five-year span). The Patriots beat the Falcons with the greatest comeback in Super Bowl history to cap 2016, then couldn’t find that extra gear in another thriller — a 41-33 loss to the Eagles the following February. Brady avenged that loss by dispatching the Rams in a snoozer the next year.

Getting back to the Super Bowl and losing for a second straight season is equally rare. Only three franchises have ever had that ignominious honor.

  • 1973-74 Vikings, Super Bowls VIII and IX
  • 1986-87 Broncos, Super Bowls XXI and XXII
  • 1990-93 Bills, Super Bowls XXV, XXVI, XXVII, and XXVIII

It’s clear that, with a few exceptions, teams that get to Super Bowl Sunday and fail to reach the mountaintop typically don’t improve on that finish the following season. How do they turn out instead? Here’s a look at every Super Bowl loser from the past 10 years and how they dealt with the frustration of coming so achingly close to a world title.

Super Bowl runners-up, 2009-2018

Year Super Bowl runner-up Next year record Postseason result
Year Super Bowl runner-up Next year record Postseason result
2018 Los Angeles Rams 9-7 Missed playoffs
2017 New England Patriots 11-5 Won Super Bowl
2016 Atlanta Falcons 10-6 Lost Divisional Round
2015 Carolina Panthers 6-10 Missed playoffs
2014 Seattle Seahawks 10-6 Lost Divisional Round
2013 Denver Broncos 12-4 Lost Divisional Round
2012 San Francisco 49ers 12-4 Lost Conference Championship
2011 New England Patriots 12-4 Lost Conference Championship
2010 Pittsburgh Steelers 12-4 Lost Wild Card
2009 Indianapolis Colts 10-6 Lost Wild Card

The Niners probably won’t fall off a cliff next season — only the Panthers plummeted below .500 after winning their conference championship — but the odds of a February date in Tampa next year aren’t great. Only one of the last 10 Super Bowl losers have even returned to the big game the following year.

On the plus side, Super Bowl losers actually have a higher rate of playoff appearances this past decade than the winners — 80 percent vs. 70 percent. Last year’s losers, the Rams, may be a cautionary tale.

Like San Francisco, LA was an NFC West team that rode an offense with a shaky, but high-profile quarterback and a stout pass rush to the Super Bowl. Even with an improved defense that jumped from 17th to ninth in Football Outsiders’ DVOA efficiency rating, Jared Goff’s regression gave way to a 9-7 season in which the Rams were eliminated from the playoff race before Week 17. If Jimmy Garoppolo faces similar struggles, the Niners could fade from the NFC’s elite.


At only 24 years old, Mahomes will have plenty of opportunities to earn another world championship, even if a repeat title is a tough task. History suggests he probably won’t make it back to Super Bowl 55, but that it’s not an impossible destination. The outlook is a little more grim in San Francisco, though the 49ers are similarly capable of escaping recent trends.

Both teams will have a full offseason to manage their rosters and steel themselves for a return trip to Florida next February. But so will the league’s 30 other teams, and they’ve all set their targets on the reigning kings of the AFC and NFC.

This Article was first Published on sbnation.com

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